I spent as much time as I could yesterday morning and very early afternoon — we had late checkout arranged — preparing for the lectures I’m to give on board this cruise around the United Kingdom, which commences on Sunday. I had meant to be better prepared by now, but . . . well, it was hard to get into the mood after recent events, and I’ve had to answer scores and scores and scores of emails. (And I still have plenty that I haven’t answered.)
But the time finally came for us to move over to the area of London known as Pimlico, where the first portions of the traveling group would be gathering. I’m about to have to sing for my supper.
First, though, once we had gotten our new room and dropped our luggage off, we headed over to The Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, an effort sponsored by HRH Charles, Prince of Wales, on Charlotte Road, out by Old Street. Dr. Lisa DeLong, a graduate of Brigham Young University and a Latter-day Saint, who has worked at the Prince’s School for about eleven years, had offered to take us on a tour of the facility. Which she kindly did.
It was fascinating. Much, though not all, of what they do focuses on the art of the Islamic world, which I love, and which I think is particularly adaptable to modern design — and (dare I say this?) to Latter-day Saint art and architecture. Dr. DeLong is fascinated by sacred geometry, which is a fascination of mine, as well, and which I think could be peculiarly valuable for the aniconic-tending Mormon tradition.
After a great time there, my wife and I took the tube over to Parliament and Westminster Abbey, which were beautiful in the evening sunlight after a rain, and where we were privileged to listen to the carillon bells of the Abbey for about half an hour. Then we walked back to our new hotel, through the park adjacent to Westminster Palace and along the Thames.
In the evening, we met with Diane Larsen, the “Cruiselady,” and her husband Larry, to talk about the upcoming cruise and, candidly, about recent events at the Maxwell Institute, which they were appalled by.
This morning, we were up and off for a tour of London with part of our cruise group. We had a small “bus” that took us around, and a superb freelance guide named Dave. (Degree in genetics from Oxford, Welsh Catholic, a former reporter for BBC and NBC, and now, partly for fun, guiding tours around his home town.) We drove past Buckingham Palace, spent an hour in Westminster Abbey (viewing tombs of monarchs like Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots, whom Elizabeth executed, as well as of commoners like Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Darwin, Sir Laurence Olivier, Charles Dickens, T. S. Eliot, Samuel Johnson, Sir Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell, Michael Faraday, and a host of others; the place always takes my breath away for this very aspect — the concentration of graves of the truly legendary dead). Then past Buckingham Palace again for a quick glance at the changing of the guard, which has never done much for me. Then off to Covent Garden for lunch. After lunch, we looked in at Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece, St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Then to the Tower of London, the thousand-year-old royal palace and jail (established by William the Conqueror upon a still earlier Roman site), where we split up, since guides aren’t permitted to lead tours within the buildings.
My wife and I gawked at the Crown Jewels (which are kept at the Tower), inspected Traitors Gate (where, among others, Sir Thomas More was brought into the Tower), looked at the building where Richard III evidently had the “two little princes” smothered in order to gain his own accession to the throne, and sat near the spot where Ann Boleyn and her sister, and Lady Jane Grey, Catherine Howard, and several others of high rank were beheaded. (Ann Boleyn is buried in a church directly adjacent to her place of execution, and there was a very high class wedding going on there as we watched, replete with lots of men in kilts; I can’t think of a less suitable place, to my personal sensibilities at least, for a wedding.) We’ve been here a few times before, but it never palls.
After the Tower, a brief cruise along the Thames to the London Eye and Waterloo Pier, and then back to the hotel. We had a good dinner down the street with several members of our group, and now I’m back here typing. And, although this entry has been sketchy and even more shallow than usual, I’m now finally caught up in my travelogue.